Sad-sack, chronically self-doubting Hollywood screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Cage) is hired to script "The Orchid Thief," written by New Yorker scribe Susan Orlean (Streep). Obsessed with the foxy author, and struggling with how to faithfully adapt the tale of Orlean's intriguing friendship with a renegade rare-flower expert John Laroche (Cooper), Kaufman becomes increasingly stressed, unhinged, and of course, innovative in his approach. Meanwhile, studio producer Valerie Thomas (Swinton) is breathing down his neck.
Why we love it
This brilliant meta-narrative and hilarious spoof of Hollywood's formulaic approach to telling stories, "Adaptation" is the brainchild of Jonze and real-life writer Kaufman, who had teamed earlier on "Being John Malkovich." In fact, Kaufman really was hired to adapt the Orlean book, and took a chance writing a zany, highly inventive script about his neurotic inability to wedge it into a conventional plot structure. He also invented a fictitious alter ego, twin brother Donald, who despite being a noodle-brained philistine, knows how to write a crack blockbuster. Cage's sweaty, uncomfortable turn in both roles is pure angst-filled genius, and pros Streep, Swinton and Cooper (who nabbed an Oscar) match his inspired playing throughout.